Category Archives: Foraging

Contemplating My Navel

Literally the phrase is used to describe somebody who is spending too much time thinking about their own problems but with me, of course, it means something quite different.

We went up to the Bluebell woods today and they were still not quite ready for us, there are plenty of flowers but it is not a sea of blue yet

https://atrampinthewoods.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/286.jpgThat is good, it means that we haven’t missed anything. Our Bluebell woods are beautiful and you wouldn’t want to miss them.

BluebellsA lot of the wood still looks like this..

BluebellsThe flowers are there but they have a little way to go yet.

Bluebells

Bluebells

BluebellsThere are a lot of Bluebells in the hedgerows and tracks around the farm and they are a bit more advanced than this, probably because they get more sunlight.

Our hedgerows seem to retain a lot of the characteristics of ancient woodland,  which they would have been before they were turned into farmland and I see a lot of species that are regarded as “ancient woodland indicators” growing there. Maybe I will do a post about that soon. The Bluebell is one such species.

7This is a derelict Sweet Chestnut coppice and this is where we filmed the Boar. I know some much nicer Oak and Beech woods that will also be filling up with Bluebells and we will visit them soon.

So we struck out with the Bluebells, what are we going to do now?

I suggested to Fizz that we might go and contemplate my navel.

She looked impressed.

BluebellsYou probably won’t be much more impressed yourself it is not visually striking.

This is Navelwort.

NavelwortThese first two pictures were taken in February, when I first discovered it.

This is new to me and I have never seen it in flower. I had never even heard of it and that doesn’t happen to me very often so I have been watching it closely. I am very excited about my Navelwort.

NavelwortIt flowers in May and today I saw the flower spikes starting to emerge.

Navelwort

NavelwortIt looks a little bit strange, that is because it is a succulent. Succulents are plants with thick, fleshy leaves and stems that are specially adapted for storing water, like a cactus. They usually live in very dry places and we don’t have many native succulent plants, probably because the UK is a very wet place. This one is special.

Navelwort

NavelwortIt is edible and I have read that it has a very nice flavour similar to fresh lettuce. I haven’t ever tasted it and I will tell you why…

I have actually just been watching a video about edible Navelwort. It started with the presenter going on about what a rare find it was and he hadn’t seen one like this for years and then he ate it.

There is a basic rule when it comes to foraging, unless you are starving, don’t take things that are not abundant and don’t ever take the last one or even most of them. It is common sense.

The Navelwort that I have found is not abundant and most of what I saw in February has been eaten by animals. They don’t respect anything but then most of them are starving.

NavelwortAnother name for this plant is Wall Pennywort (It grows on stone walls) and the Latin is Umbilicus rupestris. It has medicinal uses but I haven’t really looked into that yet and these little flower buds are going to grow into tall spikes of flowers. I will show you when it happens.

NavelwortWell that is it for today. We did see a lot of other wildflowers and we romped about in fields of golden yellow but those are other posts 🙂

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Old Man Dancing

Dances with Wolves

I am so sorry that I have been away from the blog this month. There was a wolf at my door and you know how much I like wolves, I got distracted.

He has  gone now. I gave him a little dog that I found in the garden and that seemed to fill his tummy nicely,

(I have not really fed Fizz to a wolf)

Anyway Wolfie has gone and we would like to get back to nature. I will try to post every day for a while, to make up for my recent absence.

So much has been happening and there is a lot to blog about.

I am glad to find that I have not lost my touch with the Faeries.

Orange Tip

Orange Tip

Orange TipTomorrow we could go up and look at the Bluebell woods.

BluebellOr we could video Fizz searching for her yellow ball amongst the Dandelions.

The WinnerThe world has turned beautiful.

Let me put this little animal down….

Orange Tip

Whoa! Hold on! I’ll get a ladder.Orange TipThat plant that I am putting him on is Garlic Mustard.

Garlic MustardNext to Wild Garlic it is one of the tastiest herbs around at the moment. This is one of the very best reasons to get into foraging. Picked fresh it is better than anything that you could buy in the supermarket. Foraging is not just about nettles and Dandelions, some of it is Caviar (without the fishy taste) and you just can’t buy it in the shops.

It is growing in abundance in my neck of the woods and deserves a post of it’s own.

Garlic MustardOh lookit! A brown Faerie.

Speckled WoodThat would be a Speckled Wood.

Speckled WoodIt is so nice to have them back.

I am going to cut this post short because I want to post it tonight.

Sometimes Fizz and I get ourselves into some pretty dangerous situations.

DangerI tend to shut other people out in case they get hurt by the terrible dangers that we have to face.

Terrible DangerSo I haven’t been reading my email or attending to anything just recently and I am sorry if I seemed to be ignoring you. I will be back on top of everything tomorrow.

I had a stroke of luck and came out on top. I don’t have to leave the farm or Fizz, or do anything that I don’t want to do. So it goes.

All right, Cutie Pie?

Cutie PieI did not fail to notice that you played a good game back there and that you are a reasonable companion animal 🙂

Tonto

Riding in Thunderbirds

Fizz and I have been having a tough time of it the last couple of days, “Buzzard Luck,” we say, that’s what you call it when you have no luck at all. A storm blew in and getting out has been a trial, you can forget photographs.

To be fair it is not so bad for me as I am quite tall…

TallIt is worse for her, she is small.

SmallWe can wait indoors till the rain stops but the wind is relentless and spoils everything.

I am going to have a little drink tonight. I think that I made up my mind on Wednesday that I would have a drink on Saturday and so I was looking forward to it. You understand looking forward to something don’t you?

Imagine my disappointment when this happened!

So I took Fizz out in the horrible weather because 1) Dogs need walking and 2) Sheep need checking and I didn’t want to do them on my own.

There was one missing. I counted them over and over because it is difficult to count sheep but I couldn’t get more than 35 and there should be 36. So we searched the hedges. Four fields, 60 acres in total, it is a lot of hedge, on foot.

The whiskey shop closes early in the village and time was ticking by. There is nothing that I can do about it, there is an animal missing and I can’t find it. I went back to the farm.

Jump Fizz! Jump!

Jump Fizz!At the farm I met a friend of mine, the same age as me but he has worked on farms all of his life. He renovates old tractors in our farmyard now. He is the best man for Sheep problems.

“There is a Sheep missing and I can’t find it, will it be all right overnight?”

He said, “If it is on it’s back, it will be dead by morning.”

“Okay, I will find it.”

He said, “Jump in the truck, we will look together.”

So I got in the Thunderbird. (Fully Advised and Briefed)

We found it. I had counted right and the lost lamb was caught up right by the gate of the first field that we looked in.

Lost lambStupid, stupid Sheep. You had me so worried.

Stupid SheepIt didn’t take any time to find it and I made it to the whiskey store in time and so I am enjoying a little drink with my coffee as I write this.

But that is not the story.

Just as we were about to land by the top field, my friend brought his Thunderbird to a halt and wound down his window.

“You haven’t got your camera on you, have you?” he said.

Like Hopalong Cassidy doesn’t carry a gun. “I have a camera.”

Then ignoring Parker’s urgent enquiries into the progress of the mission he put the Thunderbird into reverse and pulled up here.

Common BuzzardThese pictures won’t win any prizes, it was a dark overcast day and my camera is at arms length stretching over the driver to try and see out of the futuristic rescue vehicle’s window but it is good for me.

I have been trying to get close to this bird since I arrived here.

Common BuzzardThe stupid animal only really had one pose but if you study my pictures carefully the head moves.

“Do tricks” I shouted but she wasn’t having it.

Common BuzzardIt is a Buzzard, they are very common here but they circle high above me. I have to describe their cry as plaintive, it is lonely and distant but also beautiful.

They are always here, sometimes flying in clear blue sky, brilliantly illuminated by the sun and sometimes swooping out of the darkest cloud in the first light of morning.

Common Buzzard

Common Buzzard

Common Buzzard

Common Buzzard

Common BuzzardThat’s gone. (Thank you)

This is something that I believe, “If you be nice then nice things will happen to you,” that is what it felt like.

Dog walked, Sheep saved, beautiful wildlife observed.

Victory roll!

Victory rollAt this point Fizz would like me to advise you that if you were planning to kiss her goodnight, you should do so now. (It’s the garlic thing)

Kiss kissIf you are lucky enough to have Smellyvision then this would also be a good time to scratch your screen.

Allium ursinum, The Wild Garlic

Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum)Wild Garlic is also known as Ramsons, Buckrams or Bear’s Garlic. Brown Bears are supposed to be very fond of it and so are Wild Boar. (The Latin name ursinum is derived from the Latin word Ursus meaning Bear)

It is a beautiful native wildflower and a heady scent of garlic in the woods, it is also very good food.

The first leaves appear late in February.

Wild Garlic leaves (Allium ursinum)

Wild Garlic leaves (Allium ursinum)The leaves are best harvested in March and April before the flowers appear. I have heard that you can boil them but I don’t know why you would do that, they are an excellent addition to salad when served fresh and uncooked.

On my plate I have Wild Garlic, Garlic Mustard, Cuckooflower and primrose.

Wild Garlic table (Allium ursinum)Some care must be taken when collecting Wild Garlic. The leaves are easy to identify, they grow on single green stalks, they are quite large and lance shaped with smooth edges and most importantly, they smell of Garlic.

Every year there are cases of poisonings concerning Wild Garlic, more so in Europe than the UK because foraging is more popular there. Poisonings occur because Wild Garlic grows in large patches and there will be other things growing in amongst it. In the next two pictures there is Wild Arum and then Dog’s Mercury growing amongst Wild Garlic, both potentially fatal.

Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum) with Wild Arum

Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum) with Dog's MercuryIt is tempting to gather up this delicious herb by the handful but personally I select and check each leaf individually as I collect them. It is important to know what you are eating.

The flowers start to arrive in April. The flowers can now be eaten and added to salads in the same way as the leaves, they have a slightly stronger garlic flavour.

Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum)At first they look like large uneven green buds.

Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum)These are actually a pair of green bracts that are forming a case around an umbel that might carry as many as twenty flowers.

Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum)

Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum) Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum)   Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum)   Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum) The bracts turn papery and fall off as the umbel expands.

Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum) Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum)   Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum)   Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum) This is what was in each of those green cases.

Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum)

Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum)

Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum)Each flower on the umbel is composed of six white petals, it has six stamens and the pollen is pure white, there is a single style in the centre and at the base of that is the green, three lobed ovary.

Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum)The seeds are edible and so the flowers can still be gathered as the seed starts to ripen. The bulbs are also edible but taking them removes the whole plant from the wild, they are small and best left in place to provide for future crops.

Wild Garlic is hermaphrodite and it is self fertile but is also pollinated by insects. It produces a lot of seed and spreads easily. It also produces little bulbs on the base of the original bulb and can be propagated by division.

Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum)

Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum)Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Plantae

Order: Asparagales

Family: Amaryllidaceae

Genus: Allium

Species: Allium ursinum

Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum)Wildflowers in the depths of winter 🙂

The Clouded Agaric

If I had found just one of these fungi on it’s own I would probably have passed it by. It would have seemed unexceptional and pretty indistinct to me.Clouded Agaric

Clouded Agaric

Clouded AgaricWhat made it beautiful was the scale. These were big mushrooms.

Clouded Agaric

Clouded AgaricSo now we need to find out what it is. The pictures above are nice and they contain some important information but not enough for an ID.

The cap colour is indicative, the name “Clouded” comes from the grey/white colour of the cap which is always darker in the centre and the crinkled edges of the older fruits are also true to this species but many fungi have these characteristics. The other information that I am getting from these pictures is the way that they are growing together in quantity, that is also indicative of this species.

We want to find out what it is, so I am going to gather as much information as I can.

I need to look at the stem and the underside of the mushroom. Is there a ring on the stem? does it sit in a cup? Is it hairy or scaly? I need to know if this mushroom has gills, many of them don’t, they often have a flat porous underside and it is absolutely vital to record this. When I cut it I am looking at how the gills join to the stem and the colour of them.

The way that I approach this is to try and photograph everything that I can possibly think of.

Clouded Agaric

Clouded Agaric

Clouded Agaric

Clouded Agaric

Clouded Agaric

Clouded Agaric

Clouded Agaric

Clouded AgaricEven with these pictures there is still a very good chance that I won’t be able to identify the species. There are other things that you can look at. Does the fungi have a noticeable odour.

Sometimes scent is quite faint and the best way to smell a mushroom is to put some in a bag.

Clouded AgaricLet the scent concentrate in the bag for a few minutes, then open it up and breathe it in deeply. (Scratch you screen now)

Clouded AgaricWow! OW! That wasn’t really necessary. This mushroom has a very strong odour. I have heard this smell described as unpleasant but I didn’t think so. It had a strong mushroomy/earthy smell and my first thought was that I would like to eat it 🙂

Something else that you should look at is if it discolours when cut or bruised.

Here is an old video of a friend and I demonstrating a fungi called Blushing Bracket. “Blushing” because it bruises very easily.


Some fungi does, ours didn’t.

Clouded Agaric

Clouded AgaricBut it is just as important to know that it doesn’t discolour as it is to know that it does.

The other thing that you should take note of is where you found it. If it was growing on wood do you know what kind of wood? What trees are around and what other plants. Soil type might be important and if you know what plants are growing there that can say a lot about the soil. If you don’t know then photograph them.

The next thing that you can do is to take a spore print but up until now everything that I have done has been on location and has only taken me a few minutes. I didn’t need a spore print for this one so we will do that in another post.

This may all seem like a lot of trouble to go to but this is what I like. I go out looking for things that I don’t recognise and I identify them and learn about them. I was pretty determined to identify this mushroom.

If you do want to identify a fungus then please at least give us the cap, stem and gills if it has these things. It makes it so much easier.

Clouded Agaric

Clouded Agaric

Clouded AgaricSo what did I get from all of this discovery?

The most interesting thing that I found out concerned it’s edibility. The common advice is to avoid it. It is not poisonous but it can have an adverse effect. It causes gastric upset in a lot of people and some people it doesn’t effect at all. Tummy upset? Not very serious 🙂

I quickly found two blogs where people described eating it, one of them said…

“My God, what a lovely flavour.”

and the other one said…

“Really really tasty strong flavour”

The trick is to try a little and then wait for twenty four hours. Find out if you are one of the lucky ones. There is a lot of it and it will regrow in the same spot. I think that if it is that good it is worth taking the test 🙂

Note: there are a few white gilled, pale capped fungi that are more poisonous than this one. Make sure that you know what you are playing with.

Clouded Agaric

Winter is coming

Heh heh 🙂 But it is not here yet.

I would love to have a cold winter. Hard frosts and clear blue skies, blizzards and deep snow. Fizz and I have never played snow balls or made snow angels or built a snow dog. That would all make for some memorable photographs.

I think that we are going to get mud. That’s what we had last year. Grey skies, rain and floods and mud on mud. It’s not so good.

It’s sunshine Fizz. You remember sunshine don’t you?

FizzIt’s warm and it makes you feel sleepy.

FizzShe can have a little cat-nap while I photograph some berries.

Sloe BerriesThese are Sloe Berries, the fruit of the Blackthorn. They are traditionally used to flavour Sloe Gin but I like to eat them straight of the tree.

They do have a large pip but also a lot of flesh and they are very juicy. The have an astringent quality, they leave your mouth feeling dry and puckered, the only cure for this is to eat another one.

A lot of people find them too tart and they are just a nibble for me, I have never sat down and ate a bowlful. The flavour is supposed to sweeten after the first frosts but I can never wait and I have been eating them since the end of August.

Sloe Berries

Sloe Berries

Sloe Berries

Sloe Berries

Sloe Berries

Sloe Berries

Sloe Berries

Sloe BerriesThis has been a very good year for Sloe berries.

FizzWakey wakey 🙂

FizzCome on we have got sunshine to see.

Sunshine

SunshineIt is nice out but recent rains have left the tracks a bit muddy. I suppose that it is time to get the old Wellies out of storage.

MudWe shall look back and laugh at this soon.

Looking back at old photo’s I think that perhaps this year I should invest in waders or a full body wet suit. In this next picture she thinks that I am drowning and is trying to administer the kiss of life.

WetCome on it is not that wet yet. Well, not for me anyway 🙂

FizzOur next berry is Black Bryony. This one is deadly poisonous of the painful blistering variety, you wouldn’t eat one. Now that leaves are falling from the trees this is becoming more evident as it scrambles about in the hedgerow.

Black Bryony

Black Bryony

Black Bryony

Black Bryony

Black Bryony

Black BryonyYou might want to clean yourself up a bit, I can’t really take you home like that.

FizzGood Girl.

Fizz

If I should go all wan and pale…

This is a post about my relationship with sheep and how they have changed my life.

I have recently adopted a vegetarian lifestyle but it is not because I don’t want to eat sheep. They are delicious and I could chew on this baby until the cows came home, it is not that.

Blue Texel

(I couldn’t actually eat this one. This is a ewe being raised for breeding. The farmer buys them for £50 lets them mow the grass for a year and then sells  them for £100. That is what happens on this farm and then they are used to breed lambs for the next five or six years)

I would have no problem eating this sheep because over the last year I have observed the quality of life that these animals experience and it is good.

Their lives are not long but the time that they have is a good time and if we are going to eat meat at all then this is the way to do it.

Lambs are born and they have a close bond with their mother. They grow up and spend their lives with their mother. They form bonds with the other lambs and play together in the meadows. They have a close social bond with all of the other sheep in their flock. If you put two flocks in the same field they each stay with their own, so they must recognise each other and have some relationship. They have acres of space and they are cared for.

It is watching this that has brought home to me that all animals should at least have this much and they don’t.

Blue TexelsMy vegetarian stance is a stand against intensive farming. I have not become a faddy eater, If I come round to your house I will eat whatever is put in front of me  (hopefully that will be roast lamb) but I don’t want to buy it or have animals mistreated on my behalf when I can manage quite well without it.

It just became too difficult to sort out where my meat had actually come from so I decided that the simplest thing was to give it up completely.

So what does it mean…. “going vegetarian?”

On the face of it, it looks pretty grim.

Veggie BurgersI am a good cook. For many years I did all  of the family cooking. Preparing food for others is a way of showing love and I take to it readily. These days I live alone and most of the time I can’t be bothered to spend a lot of time in the kitchen when it is just for me.

I tend to make myself a pot of stew or casserole and that will do me for two days with a nice roast chicken that quickly becomes a pasta or rice dish. It doesn’t take much time.

One of my favourite dishes until recently was pork belly, beans, peppers and chilli (hot chilli) and I would serve it with a big dollop of cottage cheese straight from the fridge. The contrast of the cold cheese and the burning chilli was delicious but I don’t do that any more.

I have had some good success making sausage casseroles with vegetarian sausages. They are proving delicious and spicy. I really couldn’t tell that there wasn’t meat in them.

Last night, for my supper I had baked sweet potatoes with goats cheese and salad. That was a strange combination of flavours a bit like salty chocolate that didn’t quite hit the spot for me.

I haven’t tried these next two yet.

In case you are new to vegetarianism I will tell you what I have found out.

TofuA Tofu is a small South African antelope that vegetarians are allowed to eat. It doesn’t look bad but I haven’t got it out of the box yet.

Sea SlugA Quorn is a Sea Slug without feelings. I can’t say that I fancy this one but I am ready to give it a try.

There is probably a lot more to vegetarian cooking than this but I have to start with what I know.

Anyway I am doing it for them. Every animal that ends up on our plates should have something of a life first.

Blue Texel

Blue Texel

Blue Texel

Blue TexelIsn’t that right Fluffy? 🙂

If I should go all wan and pale it might be because winter is coming and I may lose my tan.

You just couldn’t let it LIE, could you?

Nope.

Grey SquirrelI haven’t posted anything for a couple of days because I have been trying to write a piece and I wrote it badly with anger in my heart. So I deleted it and tried again.

Grey SquirrelOn Tuesday one of my local papers ran this story

Gloucester Citizen: Squirrel Burger Challenge

Okay it is quite a funny story, I can see that. 🙂 I don’t mind people hunting and eating Squirrel, or Deer, Boar or Rabbit. In a perfect world all of our meat would come from the wild and not the farm. You don’t really get more “free range” than that. Unfortunately there are a lot of people and we would run out of wild animals very quickly.

Roadkill is good too.

Grey SquirrelMy beef isn’t with introducing a novelty to promote the festival it is with the repeated lie that Squirrels are destroying our woodlands.

BBC News: Grey Squirrel Burger Contest

We know who is behind that…

With upwards of 100,000 greys estimated to be roaming the Forest of Dean in 2005, the Forestry Commission has admitted the “huge population” is “extremely destructive”.

Grey SquirrelSquirrels, Deer and Rabbits do not “destroy” woodland they impact on the potential yield to us from that woodland. They destroy our profits. It is not the same thing.

Before Man Britain was almost entirely covered in forest and it was full of animals. If Men disappeared from the face of the planet it would very quickly become forested again.

The idea that the only thing protecting our native forest from complete destruction is the brave men of the FC who patrol our woods with guns, risking all to try and hold the animals back….

Oh please 😀

Grey SquirrelDon’t take my word for it. Take a walk around your own local woodland. Is it okay? What you are looking at is the sum total of all the damage that wild animals have ever been able to inflict.

If you are seeing something seriously wrong with your wood then look closer for the activity of Man.

Animals don’t destroy woodland Men do.

Since their foundation in 1919 the FC have converted 25% of our total area of ancient woodland into Plantation on Ancient Woodland Sites. That is hundreds of thousands of acres. I would like to see any animal that could do that much damage to our woods.

Grey SquirrelOne last thing. I introduced the BBC link into this post and included in the link is the comment “But at present the Forestry Commission don’t manage squirrels on their land.” I don’t know why they would say that, unless… You can only legally poison Squirrels with Warfarin between the 15th of March and the 15th of August and their article was posted on the 4th of October.

Here is an FC PDF on Grey Squirrel Control and the best ways to kill them.

Forestry.gov

Apparently it only takes 10 days for a Squirrel to die from Warfarin poisoning. That’s something to be grateful for, it could be a lot worse.

The BBC article contains recipes and tips if you do want to eat a Squirrel, you need three to make a burger.

So, I am really sorry to be going on about the FC again but THEY STARTED IT with their silly Squirrel Burger rubbish 🙂 I don’t intend for this blog to become a personal vendetta and I am sure that the FC do a lot of good in other areas, just not in our ancient woodland.

One last, last thing a little video.

If you belong to the anti Squirrel mob then you probably want to go and get your gun now…. and load it.

Now what I see here is an animal living in perfect harmony with the forest. You will probably see a Tree Rat destroying trees.

Give it both barrels! 

No I don’t know where you can buy cheap monitors. Try PC World. 🙂